Costa Concordia passenger: 'It was every man for himself'

Photo of the ship's evacuation posted on Twitter by @Puljac
 
The Costa Concordia shipwreck disaster has entered a new phase as survivors launch a legal battle for compensation. One passenger recounts the many ways in which the evacuation went wrong, from panicked staff to half-empty lifeboats being launched.
 
An Italian consumer rights group announced Tuesday that more than 70 passengers have joined a class action lawsuit against the ship’s owner, Costa Crociere. Two survivors have also filed a lawsuit in France, and expect more French passengers to join them.
 
Costa Crociere has placed the blame squarely on the ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, who is now under house arrest on suspicion of manslaughter. At least eleven people died after the Costa Concordia ran aground off Giglio Island in Tuscany Friday. A further 20 more are still missing.
 
The Protezione Civile, Italy's disaster management agency, inspects the Costa Concordia. Video courtesy of Protezione Civile.
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“The staff didn’t tell us anything – there was no ‘women and children first’”

Dorian Ruvolo is an Italian singer who was travelling on the Costa Concordia to perform at a private event.
 
I was having dinner with a friend in one of the ship’s restaurants. Suddenly there was a big crash, and all the glasses and plates went flying to the floor. Everybody panicked. None of the staff knew what to tell us – they were panicked, too. A voice on the loudspeaker said, ‘everything’s okay, it’s just an electrical problem.’
 
My friend and I looked at each other and I said, okay, let’s go out and find lifeboats. We didn’t see any staff on our way there. Near the lifeboats, we spotted some lifejackets; there was no staff distributing them, so we just grabbed them ourselves. There were very few lifejackets – not enough for all the passengers who had gathered.
 
Then, there was a second crash. The boat titled much more severely. At that point, staff members opened the door to the lifeboats. They didn’t tell us anything – there was no ‘women and children first’. It was every man for himself. One father pushed his young son onto the boat and told him, ‘when you get to shore, call grandma and grandpa.’ I’ll remember that my entire life. Thankfully, the father and son were later reunited.
 
Some people were asking the staff questions, but it seemed they did not speak English very well, and were too panicked to give any directions. They didn’t seem to know what to do, anyway.
 
In this video, a crew member announces in Portuguese that everything is all right, and that the vessel is simply experiencing a technical problem. The person filming asks a staff member on the boat why he’s wearing an emergency life vest if everything is okay. Video posted to YouTube by RaiNews24.

 
“Because the staff panicked, the passengers panicked”
 
I recognised one of the staff members, who was a cook – I asked him, ‘where’s the real staff? Where’s the captain?’ I saw other staff members leave on the lifeboats while passengers were still on board.
 
The lifeboat I got on was not full; I’m not sure if this was for security reasons or not. Again, no one told us anything. There was no organisation. Because the staff panicked, the passengers panicked. I tried to reassure the crying children, but was terrified myself, as I was afraid the ship might sink further and crash into our lifeboat.
 
When we arrived on land, the islanders were fantastic. They helped set us up in a hotel. The next day a boat took us to the mainland, where the police met with us. They were great, too. I would like to thank all these people – but not Costa Crociere [the company running the cruise]. No one from the company was there to help us, or even to say ‘we’re here for you.’
 
“Costa Crociere is responsible because they chose the ship’s captain”
 
Since I’ve gotten home to Milan, a representative from the company has called to check up on how I’m doing. But that’s it. There’s no word on whether we’ll be compensated for the trauma we suffered. I don’t yet know whether I will pursue legal action against Costa Crociere. I am still consulting with my lawyer. But there’s no amount of money that will give me back my serenity. I feel ill when I’m in the shower, when I’m having lunch – every time I think about what happened. I can’t return to my normal life.
 
For me, Costa Crociere is responsible because they chose the ship’s captain, who made horrible decisions. I don’t know if the staff was sufficiently trained to deal with such a catastrophe, but in any case it’s no surprise that they panicked when they saw their captain was unable to handle the situation.”
 
This photo/video collage, made by a passenger, shows his journey going from pleasant to catastrophic. Posted to YouTube by Gnapeppe.
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